The Christmas tree is up, your halls are decked with holiday decorations, and animals three doors down are drooling over the aromas wafting from your kitchen. Through your pet’s eyes, the holidays are filled with endless opportunities for fun and mischief. But, new foods to try, decorations to get tangled in, and gifts to sniff out can land your furry friend in a heap of holiday trouble. Take a break from hunting for the perfect gift for your pet’s stocking and ensure she won’t get herself wrapped up in these holiday hazards.

Treats can be toxic to pets

A number of human foods can be toxic to pets, and decadent holiday foods are no exception. Keep your pet away from these offenders:

  • Onions and garlic — These aromatic additions can cause red blood cell damage that can lead to anemia. Cats are most sensitive to toxicity, but your dog can also be affected if she eats a large amount.
  • Alcohol —If your pet sneaks a party guest’s cocktail, she can experience vomiting, incoordination, muscle tremors, sedation, coma, or death. 
  • Raw yeast dough — Dough containing live yeast cultures can expand inside your pet’s warm stomach and cause a blockage. As they metabolize sugar, yeast cells also produce alcohol, which can be absorbed into your pet’s bloodstream and cause alcohol toxicity.
  • Chocolate — Chocolate’s toxins, theobromine and caffeine, can cause gastrointestinal (GI) irritation, tremors, hyperactivity, seizures, and life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias. Chocolate toxicity is common in dogs, who can’t seem to resist eating the sweet confection, so keep all chocolate-containing treats out of your pet’s reach.
  • Macadamia nuts — If your favorite Christmas cookies contain macadamia nuts, stash them where your pet cannot eat them, as ingestion can cause vomiting, weakness, depression, muscle tremors, and hyperthermia.
  • Grapes and raisins — Grapes and raisins can cause life-threatening, acute kidney failure in dogs. Warn children and houseguests to avoid dropping these treats on the floor, as ingestion of only a small amount can be dangerous. 
  • Xylitol — This sugar substitute is found in many sugar-free candies and gum, as well as some peanut butter items. Check labels carefully, and keep anything containing xylitol away from your pet, since ingestion can cause a dangerous blood-sugar drop and liver failure.

Although fatty foods aren’t toxic, they can cause life-threatening illness in pets who are fed rich treats, such as turkey skin or ham trimmings. Ingestion of a high-fat meal activates pancreatic enzymes, which can cause severe body-wide inflammation. If your pet develops pancreatitis, treatment may involve several days of hospitalization with intravenous fluids and medications.

Meat bones can cause severe GI irritation, and can become lodged in your pet’s stomach or intestines and cause a life-threatening obstruction. Chicken and turkey bones can splinter, and sharp points can perforate the GI tract. Ham bones are particularly dangerous, as they have a high salt content and can easily crumble into pieces your pet can ingest. Never give your pet any bones as a treat, and opt for pet-safe chew toys.

Decorations can be dangerous for pets

When you add new items to your decor, your pet will inevitably want to check them out, and many holiday decorations can get her into trouble. Avoid decoration disasters by preventing these mishaps:

  • Toxic plant ingestion — Fresh greenery may include toxic plants, such as mistletoe, holly, pine, and cedar, that can cause severe illness to pets who ingest them. 
  • Christmas tree water ingestion — Tree water can be contaminated by fertilizers, chemicals, and dangerous bacteria that can make your pet sick. Keep your tree stand covered and place deterrents, such as citrus scents, nearby to prevent your pet from drinking the water.
  • Broken ornaments — A curious cat or a dog’s wagging tail can knock off low-hanging ornaments, which can shatter and lacerate your pet’s paw. Place fragile ornaments on higher branches where they can’t be reached. 
  • Electrocution — Teething kittens and puppies are often tempted to chew on electric cords used to light decorations, and can be shocked or electrocuted if their teeth penetrate the protective coating. 

Festivities can upset fearful pets

Holiday gatherings can be stressful for pets who are fearful of strangers, chaos, and loud noises. If your pet becomes anxious, she may slip through an open door and get lost, or worse, be hit by a car. Well-meaning houseguests may sneak off-limits food to your pet, or unknowingly let her out into an unfenced part of your yard. If your pet is wary of strangers, or you are concerned that your guests may put her in danger, she may be safest in a quiet room. Move your pet’s bed, favorite toys, and special treats into a place where she feels safe, and let her relax on her own for the evening rather than mingle with guests. 

New Year’s Eve fireworks, noisemakers, and loud parties can be particularly stressful to pets who are afraid of loud noises. If your pet dislikes noise, spend a quiet night at home with a few friends to help keep her calm and stress-free. 

If you have questions about holiday hazards, or think your pet may have gotten into one of these dangers, contact us.